TRONDHEIM…A Return Visit

Our Hurtigruten trip up the coast of Norway finished well beyond the Artic circle in the city of Tromso. The ship itself continued on until it reached almost the border of Russia, delivering goods and tourists along the way. Our tour finished in Tromso, the Arctic Capital of Norway. We spent a couple of days exploring Tromso before catching a plane back to Trondheim. Our plan was to spend two days in Trondheim before making the journey back to Bergen by hire car. The Trondheim airport is about 40 minutes north of the city so we got to see the some of the coastline before arriving at our accommodation for the next two days… City Living Sentrum Hotel. (See red star on map below, right).

We have noticed over our travels that decorating streets in the centre of European cities with lots of colourful umbrellas hanging overhead has become quite the ‘thing’! From our hotel as we walked to the centre of town, we were able to keep track of our home destination by noting the Umbrella Street nearby as well its neighbouring street, the ‘frilly, hanging decoration’ street. As a minor point about world style trends, I recently stumbled upon a blog site that informed me that there are 20 streets around the world where the locals have decorated street airspace with multi-coloured umbrellas. The one in Bucharest is described as “the most ‘instagrammable street ever!” …whatever that means.

On our last afternoon in Trondheim we used the colourful neighbouring streets to guide our way to the centre of town (Torvet), not just to have another good look at this interesting area, but that we also needed the services of a shopping mall.  I was able to have another good look at the sundial in the centre of the square as well as its associated Viking statue on the tall column. My favourite sculpture however was a gorgeous falcon glistening in one of the fountains at the edge of Trondheim’s centre.

On arriving in Torvet, we noticed that there were a lot of people around as well as large numbers of police with the associated ‘paddy’ wagons. Shyness not being a problem, we stopped and asked a policeman what was the reason behind their large presence here. We were informed that there was an anti-Muslim protest about to occur in the central square. Apparently, there were a series of protests around the cities of Norway by PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West). Of course, there were also “Anti Pegida” protests being organised! My favourite quote from a PEGIDA supporter ran as follows…“It’s tragic that we lose some of our freedom of expression because someone doesn’t like what we say.”  This was a wonderfully acrobatic expression that I could use if I was ever in the unlikely situation of having a heated argument with a protester from either the left or the right side of social politics.

On our first full day on our return to Trondheim, we decided to head back towards the Nidaros Cathedral and approach it from the eastern side, from the back of the Cathedral where much of the grounds are given over to old graves.

This cathedral was built over the burial site of King Olav II (995-1030) who became the patron Saint of Norway. It is recorded that the Cathedral originally took 230 years to build from 1070 to 1300. King Olav was canonized a year after his death in a battle in 1030. His story is held to be central to Norway’s national identity and he is symbolised by the axe in Norway’s coat of arms.

One of the continuing stories is the grave of St Olav, originally held to be under/behind the main altar of this cathedral. It was its placement here that over the next five centuries turned this cathedral into a pilgrimage destination all over Scandinavia and further south. However, the Reformation period inspired by Martin Luther brought an end to the pilgrimages and St Olav’s shrine was destroyed by Danish authorities. However the story goes that his body was spirited away and it is believed it was reburied either somewhere in the cathedral or in the Cathedral cemetery.

Even a stone cathedral struggles with a thousand years of history and given the weather and the regular fires, this cathedral has struggled to survive intact over the centuries. The Western Front of the Cathedral with its array of sculptured saints is considered to be the most significant part of the church building and it had deteriorated significantly as the image on the right below from the 19th century shows. Its restoration began in 1905 and was completed in 1983. Only five sculptures from the Middle Ages have survived and they can be seen in the cathedral’s museum. The image on left below is dated from 1661. The statue on the right above (from the the western front of the Cathedral) is St Olav holding an orb in one hand and an axe in the other. The dragon under his feet represents paganism.

Our walk around the inside of Nidaros Cathedral was worth the return visit to Trondheim. It was a beautiful place and it seems that the concept of pilgrimages to this site has been reinstated, given the large number of groups being led around by red robed figures. Next door to the Cathedral is the Archbishop’s Castle/Palace and the stone walls are believed to date back to the 13th century. It houses today a number of museums as well as the permanent display of the Royal regalia (Crown of Norway etc).

We finally escaped the Nidaros Cathedral and headed out the back way through the cemetery and down to the path along the river. This led us back to the Old Town Bridge again. I hadn’t noticed the convenient tourist info sign last time that we crossed this bridge on our bikes. It pointed across the bridge to the area called Bakklandet on the east side of the Nidelva River between the Old Town Bridge and the Bakke Bridge which can be seen in the distance in the photo of the river further down this blog.

We enjoyed our bike ride through this area the previous week but today we were determined to soak up the atmosphere by stopping at the café just over the bridge and having a late morning tea. We found a table outside and did some people watching, mainly young people who were most likely students from the nearby university. The back story of this district was told to us by our bike guide who explained that in 1965 a new road plan for the city involved demolishing large areas of Bakklandet for a four-lane highway. Protests by the locals eventually stopped the plans from going through. In the café I noticed a book that was left for customers to read. Its cover intrigued me but my two and a half weeks travelling around Norway was insufficient for me to start making sweeping judgements about the nature of Norwegians which seemed to be the thrust of the image.

Two curious constructions were within spectator range from where we sitting outside our Bakklandet café. The first appeared to be a sculpture of a huge, old-fashioned transistor radio with an ageing character trapped inside. It was called ‘Radio Otto’. However the most entertaining construction was the Trampe Bicycle Lift which was invented and installed here in 1993. Its purpose is no doubt to push bicycles up the hill but at no point during our time watching people trying to use the mechanism, no one got an assisted ride up the hilly street.

On our last night in Trondheim we walked back towards the dock area of town, not only to check out the area but also to look for a restaurant along the edge of the Trondheim Canal near the Central Railway Station. The waterway here had a long stretch of restaurants taking advantage of this renovated area of town with views along the canal and the many sailing boats that made it their home. We had a very pleasant seafood dinner and enjoyed the walk back to our hotel along the Nidelva River. Just over the canal near the Trondheim Maritime Museum  was a large memorial to all those Norwegian sailors lost in the two World Wars of the twentieth century (left below). My final curious sculpture from Trondheim that we passed on the way back to our hotel was the armless, emaciated creature hanging off a wall not far from where we were staying.  I am sure it gave the small children nightmares who were playing nearby. Despite this last image, we enjoyed our time very much in this very stimulating city on a fjord in Norway.

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